Professor Emanuele Viterbo

Professor Emanuele Viterbo

Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering
Room G09, 16 Alliance Lane, Clayton Campus

Code breaker takes on faster data challenge
It’s all about speed and accuracy for Professor Emanuele Viterbo – faster information transfer with fewer errors or information losses. His creative approach to coding is proving invaluable in improving the future of wired and wireless communication networks. As leader of the new Software Defined Telecommunications Laboratory at Monash University, one of Emanuele’s latest challenges is ‘cognitive radio’. The aim is to develop smart wireless devices that can access unused bandwidth in existing communication networks – be they cable, optical or wireless.
‘It would mean, for example, that a mobile phone could call another mobile phone in the same building by accessing radio bandwidth or wi-fi in the building, rather than connecting to the cellular network,’ he says.His research sits under the umbrella of information theory. The ultimate objective is to take the speed of communication as close as possible to the theoretical ‘ultimate limit’. This is the maximum speed at which data can be transferred without error. Emanuele says that in reality this limit is unattainable, but worldwide research efforts bring us at least closer to it, year by year.
‘You design codes that keep your error probability as low as possible,’ he explains. Errors in image files should not be detectable to the naked eye. In sound files they should be unheard. In computers the error rate should be almost nil, as a missing bit or two of information can stop a program from running. He says working on these codes brings him into collaborations with pure mathematicians, who delve more deeply into complex, conceptual maths than even he does. It gives them an opportunity to put their theories into practical applications. The Monash telecommunications lab will also be a testing ground for new hardware. Special computers in the laboratory will be capable of ‘pretending’ to be several different communication devices – depending on what the software tells it to be.
For example, a computer could act as if it were a new mobile phone, giving the designer a chance to see how the phone’s signalling would work – even before the prototype has been built. ‘It makes it very easy to test new algorithms, new transmission schemes, new network schemes,’ Emanuele says. Other uses for the lab include research into radar and defence applications, powerline communications and underground communications for mining.
Emanuele established his international reputation through two major radio communication breakthroughs that have already been incorporated into new technologies. In 2010 these earned him the highest honour from his peers internationally; he was awarded a fellowship to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE). It is a success he did not foresee when he stumbled on to this career path during a two-year stint at the European Patent Office in the early 1990s, after finishing his bachelor degree. ‘I would see all these nice ideas – or not-so-nice ideas – in telecommunications but then I couldn’t really go and dig into improving them, or think about the application,’ he says. Frustrated by the restrictions of the patent office, he returned to university to develop his own ideas through a PhD.
Emanuele says that in a sense coding runs in his blood. His great-great uncle, an amateur Egyptologist, developed his own alphabet that he used to write a 355-page memoir of late 19th century life. Family members and hired experts all failed to crack the code in almost a century of trying. But in 1997, Emanuele spent three months cracking and translating the 250-symbol code, revealing intimate details of his forebear’s private life.


  • PhD, Telecommunications Engineering, Politecnico di Torino
  • Laurea, Electrical Engineering, Politecnico di Torino


Algebraic Number Theory, Wireless Communications, Cyclotomic Fields, Modulation Diversity, Rotated Constellation, Space-Time Coding, Telecommunications, coding and information theory, NAND flash memories

Research Projects

Current projects

Network coding over finite rings

The project aims to transform the theory, design and deployment of coding schemes for future wireless networks by exploring innovative algebraic tools. We will produce a systematic and unified approach to the design of network and relaying codes for multi-terminal wireless communications, an emerging technology for wireless networks. Our advances in coding and decoding will enable massive increases in data rates and will lead to more reliable communications networks. The outcomes will make fundamental contributions to coding and information theory, with direct application to next-generation wireless communications.

Advanced Coding Techniques for Next Generation NAND Flash Memories

NAND Flash memories in Solid State Drives are gradually replacing hard drives in our laptops and provides enormous benefits in access speed and weight. A critical limitation of NAND Flash memories is their reliability loss with use. While the physical principles underpinning the technology of such storage devices are constantly improving, the challenges posed by the very strict reliability/cost requirements of large storage systems can only be met by advanced coding techniques. By allocating some of the memory to coding redundant information the lifetime of these devices can be extended to the desired level. Designing low-power consuming coding schemes that can achieve the maximum coding gain will be the focus of this project.

Index coding for multimedia content distribution networks

A large portion of the increasing internet traffic is due to video content browsing and distribution and poses serious strains to the current network infrastructure, which is designed to support conventional data. It is crucial to explore new fundamental avenues to reduce the network congestion due to large files downloads. The project will tackle this problem by exploring new index coding techniques, which are robust to failures occurring in wireless and wired network links. Using advanced mathematical tools from algebraic number theory and module theory we aim to design optimally bandwidth efficient index coding schemes that enable timely and reliable content distribution to the end users.

New Generation of Secure Wireless Communications for Constrained Devices

Internet of things (IoT) will involve billions of resource-constrained devices connected to the environment and managed though a range of wireless connections. Standard wireless security solutions are unsuitable for these devices due to the high cost of communication and computation. The project aims to develop a novel wireless security approach based on the physical-layer properties of wireless channels, to secure communications for the IoT. The fundamental advances of the first two years will be followed by a software-defined radio demonstration of the new technology. These outcomes will provide innovative solutions to safeguard future commercial deployment of the IoT.

Past projects

Wireless network coding: practical lattice code constructions Other

Network coding for content-aware networks

FLAG: Fundamental results and algorithmic solutions for 5G networks

Coordinated non-coherent wireless for safe and secure networking

This project aims at transforming the current wireless technology to address two increasingly important issues of wireless networks regarding public health and communications privacy. We will produce major innovations in the theory and practice of wireless technology that will significantly reduce the power output from distributed transmitting antennas, potentially harmful to people living in the vicinity of the base stations. Focusing the power from a number of different transmitters onto a specific receiver enhances the system capacity and the privacy of the information. Our advances in distributed wireless technology will enable to reduce the high deployment and maintenance costs of cellular networks in future 5G systems.

Information Processing via lattices for Digital Data Networks

Research articles, papers & publications

See Emanuele’s research contributions through published book chapters, articles, journal papers and in the media.

Last modified: June 14, 2019